I first reviewed Kai, Springfield’s downtown Asian fusion restaurant, in September, and Chris and I ate there again with friends in December to celebrate graduation. For Valentine’s Day, Chris surprised again with a date there. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t review a restaurant twice, but last night’s experience warrants one.
Bar none, Kai has the best sushi in Springfield, and the rest of its food is high on my list of favorites; furthermore, the atmosphere is unmatched. But all of that was ruined last night for three reasons:
- The worst table in the restaurant. If you want a table at Kai on any given weekend, you must have a reservation or resort to eating in the bar, so Chris had the foresight to make dinner reservations for Valentine’s Day in mid-January. To me, it makes sense that those who make the first reservations would get the better tables, but when we arrived just before 7 PM, we were seated at the worst table in the place: in the doorway from the main dining room to the banquet room where customers, hosts, servers, and managers all came and went. If Chris sat normally at the table, it was impossible for anyone to get from one space to another, so he had to scoot his chair in and away from the center of the table to let people pass through semi-unobtrusively. Clearly, Kai was trying to get as many people crammed into the restaurant as possible and didn’t consider how uncomfortable it would be for the customer who was sitting in that seat. The entire evening I prayed that no one would spill water or sushi down my husband’s back.
- A one-hour wait for our entree. We arrived right around 7 PM and were seated promptly. Kai had a set menu for the evening: appetizers of cucumber and clear noodle salads, a sushi sampler, and a meat sampler; an entree (we selected sea bass with wasabi risotto); and a dessert of cheesecake and banana/chocolate egg rolls. As soon as we ordered, the first appetizer stage (the salads) came right out, and the second and third stages promptly came out once we were finished with the prior stage. Because of this promptness, we expected our entree to come quickly, too; however, it didn’t come until 8 PM. We didn’t check to see what time we wrapped up our appetizers, but we’re sure we waited 30-40 minutes for our entrees. By the time they came, we were digesting our appetizers and were ready for dessert!
- No compensation or apology from the management. Now I’ve worked in food service, and though the restaurant wasn’t as upscale as Kai, I learned that servers should alert the manager of any problems with a table. I give our server credit for apologizing for our entree delay, but he should have notified his manager of our wait time, and the manager should have come to our table and apologized. Our server should have also noticed that I left more than half of my entree uneaten. I have a horrible head cold and the flavors didn’t mesh well with all the phlegm in my system (which is not the restaurant’s fault), but when a customer hardly touches her food, that should raise a red flag to the server, and the server should notify the manager, so the manager can make sure everything was OK. The managers/owners walked past our table several times during our meal but didn’t take any notice of the unhappiness on our faces.
Including the tip, we paid well over $100 for last night’s dinner, but based solely on last night’s experience, I wouldn’t return to the restaurant because the bad experience outweighed the great food and atmosphere. I won’t say that we’ll never return because we really do love the restaurant, and we have been treated well on prior visits (during our visit in December, my pal Lyndsey and I were comped our desserts simply because we had just graduated with our Master’s degrees), but we’ll reconsider spending our money there for a special event or on a busy night again.
Please note: I hate writing bad reviews, but if you search for any variation of “kai springfield sushi” in Google, my original review appears on the first page of results. That post is also one of the most popular pages on my blog, so though we didn’t (and maybe should have) complained to the manager last night, maybe this will compensate.